No shirt, no shoes, no problem.
Like any good oceanside resort, Cap D'Adge in southern France has a wide, sun-drenched beach, an interesting variety of shops and restaurants and daily activities like beach volleyball, windsurfing and sandcastle building competitions. The only difference is that in Cap D'Agde people wear nothing but their birthday suits.
Yes, the whole town of 40,000 is a nudist colony. Only to call it a colony is a not giving the fully-functioning, self-sufficient town with its own police department and doctor's offices its due. People in Cap d'Agde bank in the nude, they buy groceries in the nude and, yes, they even dine at restaurants in the nude. In fact, if you try to sneakily wear a speedo onto its gorgeous, mile-and-a-half-long beach, authorities will politely ask you to either "take it off, take it all off" or to leave. Voyeurism, at least the kind where you don't share and share alike, is strictly forbidden.
At first, it can be uncomfortable. You find yourself scrutizining every bump, every lump, every blemish. You wonder why you didn't take that New Year's resolution, you know, the one you make every January 1, more seriously. But before long you start to settle in, you come to realize that, 'hey, if this is how God made me, why shouldn't I be proud of it."
Naturists, as they call themselves, talk about body acceptance and claim that hanging out in the very outfit they came in with offers a refreshing kind of freedom. There's no pretense, no pretending to be someone you're not. As the Naturists Association proudly proclaims on its website, "We view the nude human form for what it is: a gift of nature, dignified and worthy of respect, regardless of shape, size, age or hue."
And look at it like this. You won't need a lot of suitcases.
Cap D'Agde was developed from scrub in the 1970′s and belongs to Agde, a 5th century walled city just a few miles inland. The resort spreads out from a large man-made harbor with a marina. While there is also what the French call "the textile section," (a neighborhood where clothing is not optional), the naturist section is completely independent with its own boutiques, banks, restaurants, swimming pools, nightclubs, surgery centers and police station.
"Cap D'Agde is very liberating. It makes you realize what life could be like," says American Betty Shaffer, who rented an apartment there every summer for 11 years with her husband, Harry, a professor of economics at the University of Kansas. "The only thing is you had to remember to put your clothes back on when you left."
There are four types of accommodations in Cap -- apartments, villas, a campground and one hotel. Hotel Eve, although not exactly the Ritz (of course, have you tried walking nude through a Ritz anytime lately?), has a larged heated pool, a sauna, a 24-hour lounge, a staff that speaks English (because the resort caters to lots of French and Germans, English can be harder to come by) and clean, comfortable rooms. Newbies often stay there until they can score an apartment or villa.
The campground, the original nudist colony, has more than 2500 plots and if you bring a tent or rent one of the permanently-parked mobile homes or chalets, you'll get a secure swipe-card to allow safe admittance.
Birthday suit etiquette
Lest you think "anything goes" in this city of free and relaxed naturists, here's a list of do's and don'ts:
**Leave the clothes at home. Technically, nudity is obligatory, but at night, at dinner, it is acceptable to dress up -- although sometimes that might mean a leather choker or a diamond chain around the waist.
**Carry a towel. Before sitting on a chair, it's considered polite, not to mention hygenic, to cover it with your towel.
**Just say "no" to Kodak. It's considered bad form to take photos. If you simply can't resist the urge to pack your camera, refrain from pointing the lens at anyone not in your family or circle of friends.